Moonshot is named after the bold strategy in the game of Hearts known as “shooting the moon”. Taking risks, eliminating the social challenges involved in writing, giving an even platform to all voices based solely on the quality of the work itself–this is Moonshot. Subscriptions and issues of Moonshot can be purchased online at moonshotzine.com. Complete submission guidelines are available on our website. For all other inquiries, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2010 by Moonshot. No portion of Moonshot may be reproduced without permission of the magazine. Authors retain the right to reprint their work on the condition of Moonshot being credited with initial publication. All rights reserved. Moonshot would like to give a very special thanks to Andrea R. Georgas for the cover art. Andrea can be found online at www.languageisalie.com.
moonshot Fall 2010
Volume 1, Issue 1
Editor-in-Chief JD Scott Fiction Editors Alia Tsang Sterling Brody Poetry Editors Samantha Samson Nyssa Hangar
Moonshot, Fall 2010 Cole Bellamy
Volume I, Issue I Smoke Blessed are the silverfish
Meghan Smith Half-Wolves Mother Tongue II
snippets from Acadia national park
Staring Death Back
Novio Calavera (Illustration)
Penny Carlton calaveras the trick
Lena Judith Drake
Forever, scratched and chipping
My Date Blew Me Off (Photography)
When Suddenly I Was in Fair Antlantis
your guardian angel
Sean Patrick Conlon
Moonshot, Fall 2010
Volume I, Issue I
Kenneth P. Gurney
For a Moment
For Elihu Burritt Who, Circa 1840, Translated the Icelandic Sagas
Building Near a Building Idea for a Novel
Untitled (Mixed Media)
Boy on Bench
Chris Mattingly Back When What a Wonderful World
Juan Looking Good
Gianna Russo Voice Thursday Night Poetry
Cole Bellamy Smoke In the old days The best cigars were Made by young women In crowded factories In the tropic heat Of Havana or Tampa They rolled balmy tobacco Leaf by leaf against Their bare legs To get the shape just right And to infuse every cigar With a little bit of sweat When one of these Cigars was smoked The sweat from thighs Would evaporate And fill the air With desire Some men would feel As if a large bird Had sunk talons Into their scalps And was trying to fly Away with them Some men instantly fell in love With a dark-haired impossibility They had no way of knowing That it was a woman they desired And not just the dirty air That passed through their mouths
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Cole Bellamy Blessed are the silverfish The silverfish will inherit a world Of paper and glue and live In peace for thousands of years In the eternal hangover of Human supremacy our bibles Our names and our laws will Pass through their shining bodies and All poetry will be replaced by The artful flick of hairy antennae and the Identical squirms of scaly bodies Blessed are the silverfish They are the eaters of memory The only legacy of our love letters Construction paper cut-outs Photographs and bills They will bury us In the dust of our grey afterward
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Meghan Smith Half-Wolves “I remember,” someone said, “how in ancient times one could turn a wolf into a human and then lecture it to one’s heart’s content.” –Charles Simic Half-wolves leashed on the subway. Must we mention teeth again? Muzzles dangle like the cameras around tourist necks, and teeth must be mentioned, those of the backpackers gnashing at the geometries of Mustek. I mention this because drunken revelers were doused from a window guarded by infantries of flowerboxes, lace curtains. Before water sliced like a siren: gritted teeth. It must be mentioned that the only Czech word learned is pivo, not the sibilant courtesy of prosim, nothing that slides off the tongue. Blue jean soldiers mention cravings for teeth: Why don’t they just smile back? So rude, these Czechs. So unfriendly, un-American. What is a grin if not a wall of alabaster bricks? Someone mentions teeth.
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Meghan Smith Mother Tongue II There is something whole left by leaving. You are not absence. You are a place where things came together, then crumbled. No use crying over split continents. Whole. The w to soften the blow, to whistle like why which who, when where wheat. Like an unsliced loaf. I put up fliers, daughter— “Have you seen her? She weighs as much as weight. I taught her to find a focal point to prevent dizziness.” I was convinced you had assumed the worst, spinning through the world like some drunken ballerina. It’s hard, I know, on girls with funny names.
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Erin Gilbert Then Nothing When I lived downtown I went out on a date with this guy I really liked but didn’t know too well. It got late and we were pretty drunk by then, so he said he’d walk me home. I knew what that meant but I didn’t say anything and we started walking. He was a slim guy with that Buster Keaton quality that makes it hard sometimes for people like him to walk down the street in a straight line without balancing along the edge of the curb or climbing things or swinging around lampposts as they walk along. We went along slowly, I already said it was late and we were drunk, so his balancing was wobbly and there were no other people out. Our voices bounced down the black streets. We were walking through a part of town where there are no late night bars or clubs or anything, only fancy restaurants that had closed hours ago. The buildings were old imposing ones, pretty if you like that sort of thing, and there were no cars and no sounds except for us walking along and talking and the echo of our voices and sometimes, very far away, the rumble of street cleaners. Whenever we passed a restaurant my date would veer over to the entrance and try to pull the locked door open. At first I thought his hauling on the door handles was like all his climbing and balancing, but the way he approached the restaurants was methodical. Finally I slurred out a question; asking him about what he was doing. He told me that once he went on a date with a girl and as they walked home he pulled on the door of a restaurant, just playing around, he said, and the door opened. Someone had forgotten to lock the front door. It was one of those really nice restaurants, he said, even fancier than these, he said, and he flung his arm wide and stumbled a little. They both stepped inside and opened their eyed wide in the darkness. They held hands. Light from the streetlamps outside diluted the darkness, turning the velvety black to watery brown. Far back, in the kitchen, a fluorescent light had been left on. The tables glittered with silverware and glasses. They didn’t speak. They felt shy. At first they whispered but there was no one to hear them and soon they grew bold. They each went exploring and called out their discoveries from behind the bar or in the pantry. In a refrigerator as big as an apartment he found fancy cakes and fat slabs of meat. Her shadow made movements in the dull gleam of knives, ladles, stainless 10 ◯ Moonshot
steel countertops, faucets and sinks. He tried caviar for the first time. She opened a bottle of champagne and toasted his health, his luck, and the future success of the restaurant. He joked that he would marry her and every year they would return to celebrate their anniversary. “Then...” he paused and seemed suddenly to lose interest in his story. He walked ahead of me with his shoulders hunched. “Then what?” I asked. The length of the lapse in his story made me think they had sex in the restaurant. Maybe they fell in love that night. I wished I could see if he was blushing. “Then nothing.” He began again, almost sullenly. “Most restaurants have cleaners that come in the night. The cleaners came and we were almost caught. Now I always check to see if someone accidentally left a restaurant door unlocked. Especially on dates.” He flashed a wolfish smile at me, the first thing he did that I didn’t like. We had left the last of the closed restaurants behind us by then and he seemed to be getting tired because he swerved and balanced with less gusto. I felt a little less drunk when I realized that I was cold. We reached the entrance of my apartment building and I said goodnight and turned towards the door. “You’re not going to invite me in?” he asked, and tried to pass ruefulness off as playfulness. I turned to look at him. I looked at him but didn’t say anything. He started walking away and I called out down the street to him. “Hey!” He stopped and turned towards me but kept walking down the street backwards. His hands were deep in his pockets and he was smiling just a little. He was looking at me, waiting, but getting further away all the time.
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Artie Nosrati Nova You pull her close. You press her molecules against yours as tight as you can. She tells you she’s scared. You almost tell her not to be, but think better of it and instead say to her that everything will be alright. You remind her of the things she’s told you about heaven and the afterlife and although you don’t believe any of it, even you find some solace in the thought of it. She allows for a brief silence before asking you questions that she knows you have no answers to. Couldn’t we have fixed it somehow? Is there a chance it might not even happen? You shrug and shake your head, and this seems to be enough for her. Any doubts either of you may have had are answered as the first rupture occurs. The sky flickers nearly perfect white before dimming back to bluish purple. The quiet after the confirmation is painful. You think of things to say that could break the silence. You almost ask her if she has any secrets or regrets, but you do not want to spoil the last minutes with her on negativities. There are so many things that you could say, and you want to believe that if you can just talk to her about anything, take your minds off of it, that it will not happen. If you just ignore it, the sun will forget that it is exploding and continue shining peacefully for a thousand more years. Of course you know this is not true. Scientists from around the globe did whatever it was they do and confirmed it. The same science that couldn’t stop it was able to prove it. Technology did not keep up with the progress of natural events. Computers got faster, televisions got bigger, but none of this is any good to you now. After a certain point, all that this new technology could do was state with certainty what was impossible. Everything in the old science fiction films was turned from speculation and wishful thinking into pure fantasy. There never would be flying cars, cities in the clouds, no space colonies carrying millions of people to a new planet with a more hospitable star. Nothing useful. There were infinite pages of equations and graphs that explained exactly why you and everyone else on the planet would die, but there was no time for any of that. You wish you knew more about it, but as was the case with everyone, there were more important things to do. Preparations had to be made. 12 ◯ Moonshot
It was more civilized than you expected. Movies about the apocalypse always showed people running around screaming, and for you this seemed perfectly reasonable. The ease with which the population accepted this news was unnerving. Everyone seemed as if they had some information that you didn’t, you waited for days expecting it to be a hoax. Even now, on this final night, the world is so normal. Shops and restaurants are open, you even hear laughter coming from the bars across the road. You wonder why, of all places, you settled on taking her here to this iron bench downtown. But she seems content, and for some reason you couldn’t imagine it any other way. She says something to you but you don’t hear it. You are distracted by the next pulse from the sun. The light is brighter this time, and spires of flame shoot from the star like thorns and grow and grow. It pulsates and beats with the rhythm of a ticking clock and the sky is so bright. And then it is not any more. The sky dims once again. The sun looks different, like a child’s coloring, its shape spilling over the lines. You know that millions of miles away it has ended. You can’t explain it with math or science but you can feel it. Minutes from now the radiation and heat will strip the air from the earth and scorch everything. Your mind is still trying to estimate how long you have left as your hands are tearing open her shirt and you can’t focus because she is kissing you. The last breaths that you thought you’d be using to ask yourself philosophical questions are instead spent calling out her name. You feel warm and all you see through your closed eyelids is white and you don’t know if this is from her skin or the sun but you don’t care because the only thing that matters now is her.
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Jessica Elsaesser Untitled It is very dark in here. It is very dark in this room. It is very dark in this room because I have shut the door. When I shut the door I did it quietly. I know how to do things quietly. It is very dark but there are things. The things have edges and the edges are white and glowing like some deepwater fish, the things have edges like mouths. I can see the mouths because my eyes are stretched very wide open, I feel like I am looking into someone else’s wide-stretched eyes, like a close-up of an eye. I must try not to have a body because there is no body because the body has absorbed everything like a black hole. There is no walking through a dark room but I would like to swim through it, only there are too many things in this room that move faster than I can, swimming in the dark. I’m finding it hard to be nonexistent; I can’t hold my breath long enough, and the mass in my body is beating, having pulled everything inside. It pulled everyone’s hearts inside; they are beating very loud. It is dark but there are things, and some of the things look like you, like what your insides must look like, like pulled-out secret things. It is very dark, and in the dark with this thing that looks like you, it is you, this thing I am looking for, this thing I was looking for, it is you, it is good enough.
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Eric Crapo snippets from Acadia national park he noticed the moon was echoed in the lake it rippled in his rear-view as he drove from point-to-point across the island he wore a souvenir around his neck a dime bought two month ago in South Dakota pressed and printed—mounted on a string with Elmer’s glue along the coast of Maine the seaward breeze was colder than counted on so now he takes the highway into town to find the perfect hooded sweatshirt
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Mike Swope Staring Death Back thunderstorm 6 am lightning twisted hair cold porcelain sink bad breath toothbrush gold thin-framed glasses thick lenses gray eyes peppered brows sideburns beard high forehead receding hairline long white hairs knuckles dead brother staring back glass ice cold same glasses bearded face tired eyes 12 gauge full in the face killed himself his front yard by the picnic table six years ago to the day no one else home no one to call help he did not want bleeding in the house life stained hardwood floors face down dry january grass chickens cold gunmetal gray sky incredible silence the blast sounded felt smelled tasted like nothing like the end the last thing he could do well
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David McLean what is what is of nature is internal and eternal but what comes of man is temporary evil, says Chuang Tzu; it is sawing the legs of a crane shorter to make it run better, it is animals we are that do not understand pretending to love one another instead of letting the other be alive is somehow appropriate to man, so we touch others too much, because we are apparently good, but we do it by cutting off our hands
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Penny Carlton calaveras this will sound weird at first that all my former boyfriends have this in common: they would look good as skeletons wait, promise i’m not homicidal it’s just i can see them dancing on the dia de los muertos extending bone hands to me, full of marigolds, i’d laugh, teeth chattering like a toy, and curtsey music drifting through cool skull holes, white as sugar, where lustful eyes used to burn as we spin arm bones clank hollow—what a sound, calacas and as they tip their lonesome hats, only solitude i would clutch my handkerchief, breastbone no more beating heart to break a guitar string, strummed and they’d have no more flesh
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Penny Carlton the trick they say the state of your bed room, equals your state of mind— what’s mind is yours fuck it’s the dishes i can see the sink from the bedroom where you sleep
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Lena Judith Drake Forever, scratched and chipping There aren’t any metal detectors and the men slap her ass instead of trying to grab it and the women’s bathroom stalls are unevenly painted red and have graffiti about beautiful clits and Marie and Buttercup together forever, scratched and chipping the paint away. She remembers the first time she met Barry—he wears argyle sweaters and has balding fuzz on the top of his head, and her first impression was that he was either gay, or had a wife and lots of little kids at home. That kind of ambiguity. But it all became clear when he started agreeing with her about the tragically adorable factor of Oscar Wilde and Bosie, and when he started making her stomach muscles hurt by telling her the sequence of My (Male) Ex Was So Bad in Bed That... tales. She went on the counter-attack with a brief run-through of the less hilarious My (Female) Ex Was So Freaking Depressed That... stories. He got pissed off with her, which she liked. She remembers the first time they went to the bar together— she walked in, and there were two guys kissing each others’ jaw stubble, and it made her feel safe. It was male stripper night, and everyone else in the group had to pull out their single dollar bills to get felt up and grinded on, especially by the six-pack one with the denim briefs. But she had pigtails and was faking some disco moves to the same-old, same-old techno songs, which was probably appealing in an aw-is-sheseriously-eighteen-or-older way, and Sexy Denim Stripper slapped her hard on the butt, with a “Hey, cutie!” Her, and nobody else in the group. The sting made her feel special. Barry grinded his lack of a hard-on against her stomach as she giggled, and told her she was special. She didn’t even have to pay. There are someone else’s empty test tube shots lying on the tables. They used to be filled with sour strawberry something, she sees from the drinks menu in neon at the bar, but now they just clink around when her elbows hit them. She thinks she’s sober enough to drive the increasingly Long Islanded drunk Barry home, until she tears up to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, which, yes, they’re totally playing. She’s gotta still be completely gone. Because, seriously. She’s holding Barry’s hands across the wobbly bar table, and he’s more yelling the words instead of singing, and she actually starts crying, which means they need to sit for another hour or so, she totally won’t be able to see Moonshot ◯ 21
the medians on the road if her brain’s in this state. Or maybe she is okay, and it’s just because she’s thinking I’m happy. And that’s always the diving board into sobbing, because she’s, like, the Queen of Angst. A guy with gelled hair and sharp-looking teeth, at the table over, shakes his head at the song. “I’m not into pussy,” he says. She’s having good-mood tears, so she doesn’t try to figure out what that has to do with anything, just grins at him. Barry’s intoxicated, as mentioned, so he’s officially trying to give her a lap dance. “Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?” Possibly-A-Cannibal guy says. “No, because I suck at being a stripper,” she says, but shoos Barry back to his chair, and tries to demonstrate. She figures an awkward butt-wiggle in the face is enough to make her point. “I’m gay and I’d get off on that,” Hannibal says. “I win!” she says. There’s a girl with glossy magazine hair and another girl in a snakeskin dress clinging to rolls of fat on her stomach, and they’re sitting in a booth, hand-holding with their legs all tangled together, and laughing at her. She smiles at them, really quickly, and then sits back down. The next few songs, she switches back and forth between beaming at a cute, kinda dorky black guy in a red polo (Barry wants to hit him up), and staring down the cigarette Barry has in between his lips. She contemplates asking for a quick drag. Sometimes she can’t stand the smell, and she doesn’t smoke, but sometimes it makes the back of her head feel lulled, and now is that time. She’s zoning out a little, tilting her neck and imagining her lungs collecting little black specks of happy-tingly smoke, when her boyfriend texts her phone with a want me to order pizza baby. He’d been taking a midnight nap in her loft bed when she left. His name’s Colin. She likes scratching the little hairs on the back of his neck, especially when her nails are manicured. Barry’s up at the bar getting another drink (he likes his with seven shots each, instead of the five for five dollars special, she knows this), and she sees the girlfriend’s fingers resting against the snakeskin girl’s stomach, really lightly. They’re kissing. She clinks the test tubes with her elbows again, and flips her phone open and closed, open and closed.
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Sherri Collins Obedience School “Is that one yours?” An elderly woman pointed at a prim and proper Pomeranian inside the pet store’s gated area. “Um, no,” I replied and reluctantly pointed toward the Boxer that was sniffing a Collie’s hind end. “That’s him.” “Oh, he’s….pretty.” I nodded thanks, and she stepped away to speak to someone else, someone whose dog was not getting ready to mount Lassie. I sighed and wished for the hundredth time that my husband, Peter, had come to help me. He hadn’t seemed interested in much of anything I was doing these days. “Maverick, stop it!” I hissed. He tilted his head but continued his mission. “Maverick, no!” I stepped over the low fence and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him back. “Sit.” “Remember the training,” came Annabelle’s voice, the instructor who first worked with me patiently to make Maverick behave, then not so patiently. She spoke to the whole group, but I could tell her comments were addressed to me. “If you are calm, your dog will respond in kind.” At her direction, we lined up, shoulder to haunches. It was graduation day simply by virtue of the schedule, and I was nervous. Maverick had yet to listen to any of my commands. Annabelle blamed it on the lack of authority in my voice. I blamed it on female distractions. Annabelle had each of the pet owners issue a command to their dog. With each success, she congratulated the owner and offered a diploma. When it was my turn, she said, “Okay, Lizzie. Come, stand next to me and tell Maverick to stay.” Doubt fell across my face and she smiled. “Just for three seconds. You can do it.” I walked toward Annabelle, and Maverick followed. “No,” I said as sternly as I could. I repositioned him in the original spot and pointed at him. “Stay. Stay, Maverick.” I stepped back, and he followed. “No!” We did this dance three more times. “For one second,” Annabelle said, glancing down the line. “Make him stay for one second. Put authority in your tone. Let him know who is in charge.”
“Maverick, stay. Please stay.” I let go of his collar and stepped Moonshot ◯ 23
back. Maverick hesitated before stepping forward. “One second!” Annabelle said, pleased, and handed me a diploma. “Keep working with him.” When we arrived home, Peter met me at the door, suitcase in hand. “I’m leaving,” he said. Just like that. I stared at him. I knew that things weren’t right, but I had no idea that it was to this point. “Why?” I croaked. He shook his head. “I don’t mean to hurt you, Lizzie. I really don’t. But I have to go. I just need someone… I don’t know…stronger, I guess.” Female distractions, I thought. It had to be. “Please stay.” Peter rolled his eyes. “This is what I’m talking about.” He walked past me and out the door. I looked down at Maverick, who was staring back up at me. He didn’t move.
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Jennifer O’Sullivan Comfort The guest in room 513 told me she wanted a cheeseburger — no, wait, a hamburger—no, wait, a cheeseburger. Then, when I asked which it was, she sighed and laughed through her nose as though I had confused myself. I managed politeness before hanging up, then leaned back in my chair and stared up at the paneled ceiling, numb from trying too hard. Rachel, who sat to my right, adjusted her headset and spun to face me. “What’s the matter?” she asked. A lollipop bulged against the inside of her cheek. Its stick stretched a corner of her lips. “Guests,” I said. “Don’t even worry about them! You just started yesterday, for God’s sake.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “Don’t worry about them, all right?” Rachel had worked at Silver Lane Hotel for six years: before transferring to operate switchboards, she’d waited tables in the restaurant for one year, bartended for two, and then kept house for a couple months. She knew more about the Silver’s operations than the hotel manager. I picked up the Quick Messenger, the text messaging device of Silver Lane employees, and typed out the food order and addressed it to Fred, the room service attendant on duty who I hadn’t yet met, the way Rachel had taught me the day before. She gave directions to a hysterical guest and once or twice passed her eyes over me. When she hung up and gave me her full attention, she jerked, gasped, and sat up straight. I dropped the Quick Messenger. “Geez!” I said. “What are you on?” “Don’t use that!” “Why not? I already sent a message.” “Fred’s working tonight.” She picked up the Quick Messenger and set it on my desk. She shook her head over and over. “What’s Fred got to do with it?” I asked. She opened her mouth to answer, but when she looked over my head, her face turned the color of brick mortar. I turned around to find a stout, bald, old man filling the width of the office doorway. He Moonshot ◯ 25
looked like one of those cymbal-crashing monkeys, wearing that silky red vest. Through amber-framed, horn-rimmed glasses, he glared at me. He clutched a Quick Messenger in his hand, squeezing it so hard that his arm shook, and I imagined it shattering. Shards of translucent plastic flinging everywhere. “No machine,” was all he said. He turned to Rachel, and a vein in his forehead throbbed. His sand-colored skin flushed. “You teach!” he said, and pointed at me. Then, he hobbled away, and, down the hall, he muttered in broken English about things not being what they used to be. Frozen, I watched the place where he had stood until Rachel touched my wrist. “I should have told you,” she said, “but it’s hard for me to cover everything. He doesn’t like the Quick Messenger, or the computers, or pagers, or cell phones we use for the shuttle drivers.” “Why?” Rachel furrowed her brows. “He’s old?” I didn’t know what to say. She shrugged. “I don’t get it either.” “What am I supposed to do when there’s an order, then?” “Write a note, go out into the hall, and call for him.” Just as I was about to ask what to do if Fred wasn’t close enough to hear me, the phone rang. Rachel took the call. For thirty minutes, she dealt with a guest who raved about a pet fee. “It’s seventy dollars extra because I brought my dog?” I could hear her shouting. “I want to speak to your manager!” In the meantime, every other call was routed to me. Food orders in particular stacked up. Four or five times, I ran into the hall, which was thick with banquet employees hauling trays toward the ball room. I hollered for Fred: Anyone seen Fred around? We got an order, Fred! But he never answered. I returned to the office, hoping to find him waiting there, but he wasn’t, and the room service orders just kept coming. Rachel ignored my whispers, even shushed me when I asked for help—she was still trying to console that dog owner—so I left the office and, without any idea of what else to do, I got in an elevator and rode up and down a couple of times. In the steel walls, my smudged reflection swayed. My eyes twitched, so I shut them so tightly that the skin surrounding them wrinkled all the way to my hairline. If I visualized the guests leaving, I kept telling myself, they’d leave. Then, it happened. 26 ◯ Moonshot
A harsh, shrill noise rang all around me, so loudly I thought it might vaporize my bones. I drew my hands up to my ears and fell to the floor. After enduring a few seconds of agony and confusion, I opened my eyes and was met by darkness. The elevator had stopped. A power outage, maybe. The alarm shrieked and shrieked as I tried to stand, as I let go of my ears and listened to the shouting outside the stopped elevator’s doors, and as the lights flicked on and the elevator again started rising. Somehow, the noise no longer hurt my ears — perhaps it was only the initial shock that jarred me. But I jumped again when my Quick Messenger buzzed against my thigh. The message was from Rachel and said, “Where are you?” I pressed the emergency call button on the elevator and was transferred to her. “Where have you been?” she asked. I had to press my ear against the speaker to hear her. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I left for a moment. I needed a second.” “Nevermind that! We’ve got a problem. Are you near the elevators?” I swallowed hard and checked to make sure the steel walls weren’t closing in around me. “I’m in one of them.” “You need to go to the top floor, all right?” I noticed then how her voice trembled. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s Fred, Madeleine. Something’s wrong. He sent me a text message, for God’s sake!” “Okay, okay. I’m heading there now.” Like a woodpecker, I hammered the 15 button. “The message came from the top floor. It was just gibberish, as though he’d typed with his knuckles or something, but....” Rachel trailed off and mumbled incoherent worries. “I’m on 15. I’ll have a look.” Then I hung up. When the elevator doors opened, the sound of the alarm rushed in. I ran out and glanced to my left and right. Lying on the carpet at the end of the hall was Fred, stomach-up. His eyes were closed. His jaw hung open, as though off its hinge. I gasped and sprinted toward him, but stumbled when I spotted the ceiling light above him dangling. Frayed wires hung out of a hole, and sparks flared haphazardly, like static shocks under twitching felt blankets. The sight of a raw scrape across the skin of Fred’s left palm made me cover my mouth and back away. Moonshot ◯ 27
I called 911 from the hall phone, and ten minutes later, an ambulance arrived and paramedics wheeled Fred out of the building. Rachel and I watched from the main lobby, our arms crossed over our chests. Rachel shouted, “Electric shock. Can you believe it?” I only stared at Fred, who lay on a stretcher, still stomach-up. “And all because he was too stubborn to call an engineer to fix that damn light,” she added. Although the sound of the alarm overpowered that of the phones, Rachel and I were still required to coddle the Silver’s guests. The flashing lights on the switchboards alone alerted us of their calls. “I need to check out, to get away from this noise,” said one guest, but not loudly enough. “What? A pay phone for boys?” I yelled. I had jammed my finger in my other ear, but it didn’t help. Every call went that way. Toward the end of my shift, I renounced the notion that I might hear each caller’s requests or complaints. As for those who, through their tone of voice, blamed me for the Silver’s technical difficulties, I added a porno or two to their bill, then shouted, “Thank you for calling the Silver Lane Hotel,” and slammed the receiver down. I could have recognized that tone of voice if I were deaf. By the time I left, the alarm was still going. I stepped outside, leaving behind me the ringing, which was now muffled by the hotel walls, and marveled at other sounds: clacking heels, rustling trees, laughter of two teenagers across the street. The abrupt transition to this calm was like taking shelter inside during a fierce windstorm. Hollowness, which often accompanied relief because of the lack of some horrible sensation, but a sensation nonetheless, welled inside me. The next day, our engineers still hadn’t fixed the alarm. I had to sit through a meeting about the broken security system. According to the managers, the power outage had somehow damaged the alarms, and they had no clue when the system would be fixed. Back at the office, Rachel typed out to me on her computer that Fred was doing okay, and that she was planning to visit him at the hospital the next day. “Do you want to go?” she asked via her computer screen. I typed, then backspaced. Typed, then backspaced. “I don’t know him that well. Maybe I’ll just send him a card.” “Suit yourself.” She resumed waiting for her switchboard to light up. 28 ◯ Moonshot
That day, all but three guests checked out. Some stormed out. Many demanded their money back, but the front desk workers couldn’t hear them, and the guests had to write everything out on scraps of paper. I imagined them scratching out words in capital letters and finishing their messages with exclamation marks or even frowning faces. Like spoiled children. At least the alarm spared us from the sound of their tantrums. At home, I ate dinner in silence, silence that again brought on that odd hollowness. For a long time, I felt a strange vibration in my throat and head, a sensation I failed to question or acknowledge until I noticed a sound: I had been humming—just one note—probably all throughout dinner. And it was that note, the note of the alarm. My swallowing cut off the sound. But the quiet lasted for only seconds before I involuntarily took up humming that note again. The next day, during Rachel’s break, Greg, the front desk manager, stormed into the office, and, seeing that I was the only person there, approached me and dropped a Quick Messenger on my desk. I turned to look at him. Sweat stained the armpits of his button-up shirt and shined on his forehead. He wiped his face with his sleeve. “You’re going with them up to the hospital today, aren’t you, Madeleine?” he asked. “Well, I was thinking —” “Great! You can deliver Fred’s Quick Messenger straight to him, then. I’m sure he’ll appreciate having it. I told him he can practice on it, you know, to get better at using it while he’s out.” Then he left. I imagined walking into Fred’s hospital room, carrying to him the object he hated most. He’d probably douse me with holy water or hang strings of garlic around his neck. But, with the hope that I could drop it off and run without Fred’s noticing, I put the Quick Messenger in my purse. Rachel took me with her to the hospital. We found Fred hooked up to wires and beeping screens and stuck with needles in his elbows and in the back of his hand. His glasses were folded on a small table next to his bed. He stared up at the ceiling. “Hello, Fred!” said Rachel. She drew up his shades and fiddled with the volume of his TV, but he kept his eyes on the ceiling. “We miss you at work, Fred,” she said. “Nobody’s as good at room service as you. You always get the orders delivered just right. Some of our regulars are asking for you, too. Mrs. Thompson wishes you well.” Moonshot ◯ 29
As she rambled, I hid behind her, unsure of what to say, unsure of when to produce the Quick Messenger. After twenty minutes, Rachel asked if I wanted coffee, and I said no. She walked out. Fred still stared up. No words sprang to my mind, none at all, so I jammed my hand into my purse, dug through Fruit Stripe Gum wrappers and my keys, and grabbed the Quick Messenger. As though sensing its evil presence, Fred jerked his head to look at it. His eyes bulged and he clutched his sheets. “Greg told me to bring you—” But when I imbibed his expression, I couldn’t finish. His eyes and lips morphed into an awful scowl. He furrowed his brows and bore his teeth. Twice I glanced at the Quick Messenger in my hand, and, after swallowing hard, hid it behind my back. Fred sighed and his scowl faded, but still he gripped his sheets. Figuring it was best not to speak, I crept past the bed and toward the window. Across the alley was an apartment building, and below me an open, empty dumpster and a dead end. It was the only corner of the city devoid of people. I scanned it and caught myself grinning. My focus shifted, so that I could study Fred’s reflection in the glass. And I began humming the alarm note, and thinking of how Fred was admired by everyone for being the best at room service, how he was competent despite “things not being what they used to be,” and how he buried discomfort to make his job work. I glanced back at him, then slid the window open, and, with the alarm ringing in my mind, dropped Fred’s Quick Messenger onto the pavement of the alley three stories below and watched it shatter.
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“My Date Blew Me Off” Lam Vuong Moonshot ◯ 31
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Ken Pobo When Suddenly I Was in Fair Antlantis The movie. The theater. And me, torn between them, my heart given to the theater but my mind on the movie about a guy named Popkin who had just dug to the center of the Earth and discovered a huge sea that science said no, not possible, our measuremernts deny it. Popkin sniffed and snorkled down to the bottom of this ocean—and found fair Antlantis! Oh, malls of Antlantis! Hotels of Antlantis! Beanbag chairs of Antlantis! Twas there where Popkin fell in love. A huge male Ant named Quadr. They kissed, dropped their differences in a magic bag, shook them around, and when they opened the bag a black cat leapt out. The end. Applause. I left the theater, like leaving a high school sweetheart when you go to college and you promise to be true, but pants slide off so easily. In the morning you wonder where you’ve been. The other is Antlantis, submerged, golden, but the water has gotten awful cold, and you walk out to Geology 101, the professor like a can of nuts just opened and fifty fingers dig in.
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Sean Patrick Conlon your guardian angel sits behind you on the train, eating a microwave pizza and massaging his temples. he’s wondering how long it’s been since he’s bothered to tell you that you aren’t fat. it’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s just that he’s always tired. everything you do gives him a headache. you chew the world with an open mouth he’s sick of wiping. he’s out of napkins. you sit inside your body like a three month old in a recalled car seat. he’s afraid to look away for even one second, certain that if he does that will be the moment that you choke.
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Joe Eldridge Charming His current house-husband compact cub that he is has type one diabetes never roams far from refrigerationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; four insulin shots a day so my ex-lover beams super attentive with juice boxes pocket-handy sugar packets a bright red sharps container for used needles on display in his powder room for he so adores this invalid love checking blood levels shooing flies elbowing poaching papa bears away at the bar. He lives a new fairytale now when not so very once upon a time ago my western blot test for HIV came back positive my throat closing up as if choking on a chunk of apple my foreverafter rewritten when lover, dabbing his eyes, told me he had to go away because the very thought of me slowly dying was just too much to bear. 40 â&#x2014;Ż Moonshot
Deborah Brandon Belladonna The kind ophthalmologist informs me I have large pupils. She says it as though she suspects me of belladonna, a word I’ve always wanted to use in a poem. ‘That’s why,’ she says, ‘it feels like everything’s coming at you, at night.’ Out in the light, a plumlipped sidewalk barista pauses to appreciate my eyes’ shape, color, length of lashes, but does not comment on their pupils. I feel slighted. It’s night, again, and everything’s coming at me, again. The words as I write them bellow. Crumbs from a cake I’ve eaten spill over the table with shrieks as they fall. My sweater’s buttons flinch as I guide them through corresponding holes. Chairs no one’s sitting in inch closer to me—all the fault of my large pupils. I take heart. I return to the kind ophthalmologist, and I buy the glasses.
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Phoebe Cowgell Pocket-sized Gods At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, browsing the Far East wing, you retold the story of Durga killing a buffalo. I cooed over Ganesha and other three inch figurines with ornate meanings for what they held in which hand. An hour with gods whose names I forget now, lined up in the front of the display cases, multi-handed and de-sexed, staring back at us with empty eyes, like prison had stripped away their power, their awe. We masterminded a plot to set them free, carry them in our cargo pants and backpacks, keep them company through long afternoons. How unfair it was they’d never see the city but that the city could peek on their most private moments, so they’d have to wait for the doors to lock before they stretched their legs, napped, or broke up the jealous fights in their harems. I saw Shiva’s ears perk when whe suggested it, Parvati stroke her chin, Vishnu’s eyes pleading for freedom. But the alarms went off when we crashed through the plexiglas, muscled guards wrestled us to the ground and cuffed us. I watched the pocketsized gods weep at the failed rescue.
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Some judge said we were crazy, that they were just statues. Now weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in separate wings of our own museum, watched through double-sided mirrors in bad lighting and starch bedsheets.
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Kenneth P. Gurney For a Moment Detaching herself from a chorus of retribution, Delphi gathers soap, a bucket of water, a rag; washes the violence from urban walls. She sings the moon onto her tongue, remembers loveâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sweet abandon, remembers no one belongs in the long rows of citizens accused by innuendo, by word of mouth, by gardens of fresh cut stones. Delphi falls for the sparrow, the soft flutter of butterfly wings, the roll of rain down the spout. She reads nourishing books to the kids at the arts center and draws parables in colored chalk on the sidewalks. She attaches herself to the rows of corn grown in the median of the boulevard, to the silk tassels, to the crowsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cawed desire. Delphi, for a moment, belongs to everyone, belongs only to herself, belongs in the shape of arms that draw the moon down from the night to illuminate the innocence left behind, the clothes of a lover heading to bed.
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Taylor Graham For Elihu Burritt Who, Circa 1840, Translated the Icelandic Sagas How many kinds of blood flow from Hekla’s volcanic fire? How many words for the parts of an anvil? Is there no generic term for unyielding iron under the smith’s great sleggju hammer? And what about declensions? From one website to another, I’ve tried to match English with the Völsunga original for Sigurd roasting Fafnir’s heart. I’ve Googled that word “heart” till I’m disconnected. I can’t make heads or hammers of a translation. Let false Reginn smite the sword-shard till it flames a heart-barbecue. How far some Norse warrior-heroes sailed their blood-lust – all the way to our New World where, as a child, Elihu, you loved reading of Biblical wars, and listening to stories of the Revolution reminisced by grandfathers crippled on porches, or fading in front of the New Britain general store. Elihu, you give me a headache. How often you gave them to yourself, by parsing too long into the night. How many words are there in Old Icelandic for the heart’s, the mind’s, the soul’s unease?
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Douglas Piccinnini Building Near a Building They wore tight colored bands on their throats, and we all had sex in the light. Some express clearing of dawn like vinegar shuttled voices into refusal. They drank water. They died in good condition burning their hair or bending over the fire escape. To hear was a pleasure and if we did love, we won, shaking from our pockets the necessary key.
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Douglas Piccinnini Idea for a Novel Every deserved star paints in the eye a plate of milk that drops or cracks in near perfection so as to leave parts equal. Is there no liberty? There is. I told lies and my lies were truly what I believed so they dressed me with doll hair and small breasts. I told them, comrades, I have a car, one day I will take us all to New Jersey to be free.
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Christian Ward Lichen Lichen on the neighbouring roof, an unknown language; each yellow splatter a letter of its undiscovered alphabet. My hands can understand the Braille of the roofing tiles it has colonized, but the dandelion shaped fractals of its symbols are alien to me. Perhaps if I bleed Morse it will unravel its message; perhaps if I give it a curl of hair, a fleck of skin, it will understand a reply intricate and beautiful as a star.
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Tria Andrews m*art*yr Dear Sophia Coppola, Whose coming of age can’t you capture? Gangles and angles. You make the limpest blonde hair loveliest. I get you. Who gets me? Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I wish I were a boy and I’d ask you to marry me. Marry me, Sophia. This is the start of why I’m here. With Jackie and the bed wetters and the greasy-headed girls, pale as zombies. This is why I’m here in a place only you could make beautiful. Will you, Sophia? Will you please? My daughter, my daughter, Jackie’s great, great, greatest, Italianest uncle, twice removed called out while running, while carrying his murdered daughter through the streets. Raven-haired and bouncing, bleeding, but still beautiful, Jackie said at the dance, a blue balloon squeaking between us like an uneasy mouse because I wanted it there because I felt Jackie’s thingy and his nerves, and I never did like feeling what was tough so vulnerable. I mean Jackie, not his thingy. Maybe I don’t. So I let the balloon drop, called him a liar, and he backhanded me in the jaw. Jackie is here because of what he did to the cat. You remember, Sophia. You can do it to insects, just not a cat. Particularly not a purebred with a mean, mean, meanest disposition that although hairless and ugly, costs more than what his mother needs for a root canal. Her teeth are rotting, she says, so he ties down the cat, his stepmother’s, who hates him anyway, who threatens to send him off to military school or worse (I suppose this is worse, Sophia) with his granddaddy’s money he made during the oil boom, baby, boom, which is now his father’s, which is now his stepmother’s. So he lines up the magnifying glass just right with the noonday sun, and before he knows it, Sophia, the cat is smoking and his stepmother is screaming and no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t explain why he did what he did. Will you make me into a movie, Sophia? Everything you touch is art. Some days I put on lip gloss and powder and doll-like circles of rouge and more and more mascara until my eyelashes stick out like burnt 50 ◯ Moonshot
twigs. Then I am beautiful, Sophia, Jackie says so, and we walk down the corridors arm in arm and out the door into the noonday sun far, far, farthest away until Jackie’s shoulder scrapes the chain link fence and he says Ouch, he in his Elvis glasses and me in heart-shaped ones, the two of us, looking as crazy and normal and human, by god, as anybody else. Roman nose, skinny skinny, bee stung mouth. I have a secret name for you, Sophia. It’s m*art*yr. Do you like it? Jackie thinks it’s clever. It’s all in the mouth, Sophia. If you’re a m*art*yr, I can tell. Have I told you? I write it all over myself, everyday, sixteen times, because that’s my age and the sweetest number. I write m*art*yr, m*art*yr, m*art*yr, up my second toe and shinbone, top of foot, three times prettily round my patella, inner thigh, inner arm, perspiring palm, left and right, left barely breast just above pink mesh bra, above beating heart, right rib, rib, rib, back of neck and along the spine. Thank you, thank you, Jackie, who then carves the hammer, sickle, and star around his ankle bone, who sits there bleeding, while I sit there singing Who’s got a drink for a drunken sailor like my granddaddy once sang while bouncing me on his knee. Don’t you dare tell, Jackie spells me, while I bounce one knee and nobody’s baby, or I’ll do something worse. The first time I didn’t eat so they put me here, Sophia. But it’s not what you think. At first it was. At first I wanted collarbones like shelves and shoulder blades like strange little wings and a perfectly sunken stomach I couldn’t see while lying on a lawn chair. But that summer I was twelve, cold all the time and my cousin came to visit and we fell in love and kissed and his fingers found the edge of my underpants beneath the blanket while watching movies, and once in mass, and once beneath my underpants while watching movies and he fed me vegetable broth and then real soup and ice cream and it was okay to eat then because I was laughing. I could feel my body for the first time without trying, Sophia. Do you know what I mean? We wrote letters and called each other on the telephone. Mine was a rotary, baby pink and I wrapped the cord around my bare legs and feet and sometimes my fingers like rings when we talked, but it wasn’t the same. I made a mobile from his photographs and postcards and slept beneath it and still I ate real soup and ice cream, but it wasn’t the same. Moonshot ◯ 51
I was watching a lot of television then, movies were an effort. I had to walk to the store and hear the bell ding on my way in, say hello to the boy behind the counter who rolled his cigarettes in his sleeve like James Dean and who had high cheekbones like a Cherokee and terrible, terrible acne on those beautifully high, high cheekbones and stand in the aisle and decide what genre and what movie and what to do with my hands and hips while James Dean the Cherokee watched. And then pay for the movie, and wonder if he’d touch my hand or drop the seventeen cents change into my palm without touching it—Sophia, every time it was different—and hear the bell ding on my way out, and feel James Dean the Cherokee watching, watching, and liking it and not liking it, and thinking mostly about liking it and my cousin and the mobile covered with dust made mostly from my own skin, as I walked home with underarms sticky sweet, and by then I was far, far too tired to watch a movie. I am not saying I didn’t watch your movies. I did. I watched them all and loved them. Sophia, you’re a genius and anyone who doesn’t think so is an idiot. But the best movies I can only watch once. Otherwise it hurts. Do you know what I mean, Sophia? Once there was a blonde on television. Peroxided, buxom as a pinup, and not at all lovely. Save the children, said buxom blonde and there they were all so save-able. With stick legs and protruding bellies, round and hollow as gourds. They stood in flooded streets, in alleyways, in light so harsh it hurt. A girl covered in dirt and a Mickey Mouse shirt and her smile looked like tears and I felt her body in mine without trying because I was crying, Sophia. I saved them. Nine hundred and ninety-eight of them, on a gold card for emergencies and this, Sophia, was most urgent, while painting my nails with a Sharpie, and picking at a freckle, and cutting paper dolls and snowflakes from construction paper, although I was far too old and it was mid-July. But I wanted to make sure I got the girl covered in dirt and the Mickey Mouse shirt. I wanted to make sure I saved her. And I would die for that girl; give my life for that girl, if only I knew how. I’m here because of what my mother did to the children. You remember, Sophia. You can do it to children, just not your own children. Particularly not a m*art*yr with a strange, strange, strangest disposition, who likes torn dresses and moping, spends nearly a year’s tuition at Stanford saving children, what the hell were you thinking, your mother 52 ◯ Moonshot
says, so you stop eating, if she can’t eat why should you, who? who? the girl covered in dirt and the Mickey Mouse shirt, oh forget about her, says your mother, who sends you off to Jackie and the bed wetters and the zombies, with your granddaddy’s money, he made during the oil boom, baby, boom and if it comes from the ground how can it just be his, Sophia?, but, you think like an Indian, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t explain why you did what you did. I’m tired, Sophia. So tired and nothing makes sense at all. I would watch one of your movies, but the best ones I can only watch once. Sometimes I am home again. The sheets thicker, sun-lit. Sprawled beneath the mobile, faded now, and somehow that pains me, but not too much, just the way it should. There’s ice cream in the fridge downstairs, Neapolitan, my favorite, and I know to spoon myself a bowl when it suits me. I’ll unfold your letters, written in pink ink, and read them without reading because by then, I’ll have taken in the words. Taken them in like my cousin and the gourd girl and your movies. Like Roman noses, bee stung mouths, and the shy whistle of Jackie’s breath while sleeping. I’ll take in the words as all m*art*yrs must do and I’ll do it like breathing because that’s how things are when you’re well. Write me, Sophia. Write me and don’t forget. XOXO, All my love, Your #1 m*art*yr
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Parker Tettleton Summer VIII It’s nine thirty, exactly eight hours until time to get up for work. She presses an index finger against the lampshade. She remembers her husband’s mother last Christmas, how she smiled. The light smoothes over the walls of their bedroom, hanging onto her face and the faces of their unborn children. She leaves the lamp on all night.
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Kristina England Boy on Bench Peanut butter crackers pulled apart, he licks out the center, chews both halves. Swallows. He swings his feet back and forth, head down, waits for mom. School let out three hours ago. Lunch bag: empty. No juice box.
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Emily Fingar Microcosm Blue-eyed baby sits on my lap. Tufts of fine hair sway gently with my exhale. He is stuffing pomegranate seeds into his mouth one by one, sucking off the juice and storing the seeds in cheek. Meanwhile, I am eating a date, sucking every last molecule of sweetness down to the pit. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t spit it out right away. I like having all the genetic information for a palm tree in my mouth.
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Jamie Moore Crayon Colors That day we decided to make purple of our one red and one blue. I placed the crayons in a bowl on the porch to be melted together by the greedy, hungry sun. Greedy, Auntie told us, because it tried to eat everything up, even our salty, kid skin. Every summer we came to visit, she wove us big straw hats to hide under, but our arms still had sore patches from the sun’s bites. While it was still hot we stuck our fingers in the colored wax; fingertips becoming numb as we mixed it to make one deep hue. I gave you a trail of tears to your jaw-line. You spread our purple against my cheeks, two horizontal lines, one on each side. “My Indian sister,” you smiled, “choose an earth name.” This was our old game where we would pretend to be queens of ancient times. We would spin in circles under the oak tree until we fell from dizziness, and then rise with our new identities. We would consult the wind for wisdom. The porch was a high hill from which we could see our shared village. The animals of the open field were our loyal subjects, from the squirrels to the jackrabbits, and sometimes the pets we let out. You lost your hamster that way. We laughed and yelled when the color didn’t wash away until the next day. Auntie sat us at her feet on the broad porch. At her side she had a jar of coconut oil, a pile of small, black rubber bands, and a bowl of beads. In her hand was a dreaded tool, a fine-toothed comb. I looked at you wearily before trying to take off running; I knew it was my turn, since a layer of loose afro had formed over my old braids. But Auntie was quick despite her age, and strong. She scooped me up by the waist before I even made it down the steps and paddled me with the comb until I sat quiet between her legs against the cotton fabric of her skirt. “Help me take ‘em out, and maybe we all can think of some things to do to pass the time.” Auntie tilted my head back, the pulling began. You, sitting on right side, reached up to help, but she swatted your hand away, mumbling how it was bad luck to have more than two sets of hands working on one head at a time. I chuckled and stuck my tongue at you, shaking out the first braid I loosened on the left side. “Well, I was fixin’ to play a watching game with you two, but for kids who can’t act right…” Auntie began. “Please, we can be good, I promise,” I asked, reaching out to Moonshot ◯ 57
muffle your giggles. “Alright, here we go. Now you see that tree over there?” she asked, pointing with long, knobby finger at the old oak in the front yard. “I sit here all the time and watch this tree. All the birds from the neighborhood come and visit our tree and the flowers beside it. Each time a bird lands there, you must tell me what kind of bird it is, and if you get all of them right, I’ll give you both a piece of licorice.” “Can we use your bird book?” you asked. As Auntie nodded, you ran in the house to grab the illustrated bird-watcher’s encyclopedia from the coffee table. And so, hour one passed this way, Auntie undoing my hair and laughing as we flipped frantically through the pages, glancing from the glossy pictures to the tree before us, yelling out “blue jay,” “hummingbird,” and “sparrow” in bursting breaths. We became one child, two similar voices finishing the one sentence. Two sets of fingers, one beige, one brown, becoming tangled between pages. I looked over at my best friend; I saw you as me, my one equal in the entire world. The start of hour two, I got a break. My hair was free, expanding in all directions a mess of nappy curls. We stretched our legs and went to dance around the tree. You called me Diana Ross, pulling at my hair, brushing off the extra strands that caught in your hand. I started crooning “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” circling the oak, near-tripping on exposed roots. You simultaneously provided backup as both the Supremes and the Temptations – a sweet duet. Auntie called us back with cups of lemonade and a book of word searches. As my comb-out started, we flipped through the activity tablet, finally settling on one about “things in the ocean.” I decided to find ‘seaweed’, you ‘starfish’, and before long we ended up finding each other’s words instead of our own. “Mind-reader!” I teased. “Look,” you pointed to the tree, “the sunset. Colors like our crayons.” The heart of the light was canary, bright enough to burn my eyes. A layer above that, goldenrod. Then I saw a blend of pinks, carnation, salmon, even a dark violet-red. And my favorite, light-purple orchid, at the fringes before gray and midnight blue swallowed up the sky. Hour three the real painful stuff opened up the bitter, mean sides of both me and Auntie. She braided the top part first, right in the center. It felt like she was pulling each hair from my scalp individually, I swore I’d be bald by the end of it. She knew how to do it real tight, so it felt like she was still holding the hair taut, even when she moved to 58 ◯ Moonshot
the next piece. I clawed at her hands to stop until she again snapped me with the tip of comb. My neck ached from leaning back, head up, then to the right, then back again. My face burned and sticky tears trickled from my scrunched up eyes, rolled off my cheeks, making the front of dress polka-dotted with each drop. Auntie asked you to get me a snack, and you carried a wedge of bread from the kitchen, edges smothered with creamy butter. If I stuffed my mouth, she said, maybe I’d stop my useless whining. Through part of hour four she had you lay atop my legs so I’d stop kicking. You pinched at the skin around my knees to make me settle, eventually falling asleep there—a lumpy, but sufficient blanket. When I told Auntie I couldn’t stand my feet being numb any longer, she shook out her tired arms, and lifted you away from me. “Carry the stuff inside,” she whispered. “We’ll finish in the living room. Only a little to go. Plus, it’s too cold out here now.” I grabbed the grease, bands and beads, and on a whim, the rest of the intact crayons ratting around in the box of 48 we left on the porch from the afternoon. I set the hair stuff on the couch cushion and sought out a few sheets of blank paper. I began a picture as Auntie situated herself to finish my throbbing head. “Well, your cousin is finally asleep, thank goodness. Only you and I left. Such different children, the two of you.” “What do you mean?” I implored. “Well, first off,” she chuckled, “this hair. You definitely have that mixed girl hair – smooth on top, tangled and curly underneath. You are quieter, but have a louder soul.” “What does that mean?” “I can feel your presence in a room. I don’t even have to look up to think, yes, there’s my pretty niece, right next to me.” “My cousin is pretty too. Just like me.” “Yes, baby, but a different pretty. More like me. You’re a special one. Let me see that drawing.” I showed her the picture of the sunset with the three of us sitting under the oak tree. I picked up the color burnt sienna to shade in our round, stick figure heads as she praised my work. “Beautiful picture!” she exclaimed as I finished the second stick figure head and body. “Now what color are you going to use for you?” “The same,” I replied, giving her a funny look. “Nah, I’d say you are more of a tan or honey.” “I don’t think I have those,” I said nervously. “Well, while you look, I’ll scoop us some ice cream in celebration Moonshot ◯ 59
of your finished hair.” After Auntie made her way into the kitchen, I dug around the crayon box and pulled out tan and peach. I snapped them both in half and hid the four pieces in different places, anxious she’d catch me. I heard the clang of bowls as she took them from the cupboard. I quickly snuck outside and stuck burnt sienna in our crayon melting bowl to meet the morning sun. I made it back in just before Auntie came back to the living room with a heaping bowl of old fashioned vanilla and two silver spoons. “Actually, I’m pretty tired, I’m going to bed.” I yawned. “Ok, go ahead, I’ll clean up the mess this time.” She kissed my forehead and nudged me to the room. I climbed into the bed beside you, and watched you sleep. I still wanted to be the same. I gently shook you awake and whispered, “Do you think one crayon will cover my arms and legs? I want to play the game again tomorrow.” You just nodded and rolled over, while I lay awake, arms stretched above me, anxious of the light glaze the moonlight granted my skin.
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Chris Mattingly Back When I was growing up, helping my step-dad With a job too big for two, We’d sometimes go down to Riverside Drive, Pick up a couple men Sitting in front of the liquor store And give them a day’s work. When I was in high school and wanted A bottle or six-pack, I’d go down to that same Coon Dog Liquor To wait for one of the old men To lean like a carhop Down into my Chevelle window And take an order. The rule was You always give them a little extra For the trouble, to keep them honest. But sometimes they’d disappear Behind the building with your twenty And you knew they weren’t coming back. Sometimes they’d sit back down on a crate Against the wall and drink your beer laughing With five or six others. Mostly they just gave what you wanted So you could drive off thinking what you do. If I never thought my skin color mattered It was only because I was 17 and white. Once, I exchanged a ride home for a six-pack From a man who fed me pills washed down With Mickey’s Big Mouths in his living room.
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Telling me to not to move, that he was Whipping up a surprise, he disappeared To the back of the house. I sensed the night shatter like a bottle In the street. Drugged, robbed maybe, Left on the levee to be found by a jogger Under misty river gauze? Dropping the pills Into my pocket, I slid like a liar through truth Out a screen of cigarette smoke And long jumped down the stairs into my car Turning as I sped off, to see him give chase With a plate of food in his hand.
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Chris Mattingly What a Wonderful World –Louis Armstrong It’s Friday night At the Bedford Tavern & my father is singing Karaoke again, Taking swigs of beer Between verses. Aunt Ed, 80 today, Lights another cigarette. Two men throw dice On the bar. I roll over in bed As he walks back Into the house After warming the car. He’s singing “What a Wonderful World.” Single father With wrecked heart. Foreman at Zenith Whose job will be shipped To Mexico in six months. Child support Long due & all this Before breakfast From some drive-thru On the way to school. He skips a verse & I grow up Thinking he wrote it. Turning from the bar, I raise him a toast & we kiss Our bottles of Bud. Moonshot ◯ 63
Matt Mendez Juan Looking Good Juan puts on his new shiny shoes. He likes them, and when he stands his pant legs cover the thin laces and around the heel. The pants aren’t baggy or tight. Not jeans. They are dark grey slacks, sharp and straight. Juan’s amá ironed his shirt, starched the collar and long sleeves. It smells like lemons. Juan’s tucked in, first time since he was a kid making Communion. His amá bought the clothes on her credit card and paid for his haircut—still close on the sides but longer on top, with hair to comb. Juan’s tío, Richard, who works for the city and is the kind of Mexican who thinks he isn’t, took care of the lawyer. Juan checks himself in the mirror, didn’t know how good dressing fancy would feel. Juan’s amá is worried what the judge will do. Bang the gavel and her hijo doomed. Doomed to what, Juan doesn’t know. The lawyer never explained things to him, only to Richard because he wrote the checks, but Juan’s not scared. He ties his tie, knots it so the end hangs just above his belt buckle. It’s too hot for a jacket, but Juan wishes it weren’t, wishes his amá would’ve gotten him the blue blazer with the silver-dollar buttons. Juan’s put his poor amá through enough— everyone agrees—but maybe one more thing wouldn’t have been too much to ask. Juan is told to plead guilty, but the news isn’t so bad. No jail time, and the record seals when he turns eighteen. Juan’s familia thought it was game-over when they walked inside the courtroom and heard all the English they didn’t know, but the judge gave community service and a fine, gave Juan extra innings. Juan’s glad to keep playing, to swing the bat and maybe get lucky. On the way home he rolls the cuffs of his shirt and sticks his arm out the window of his amá’s truck, feels finer than ever with the wind in his sleeve. Juan’s amá throws a carne asada to celebrate. His tíos and tías, all his primos, come to the house, even his abuela in her wheelchair. Juan’s friends show, too. His boys slap him on the hand and back. The girls give hugs and tell him how good he’s looking. Juan’s friends want to leave after eating, after taking all the dirty looks his family had for them. They tell Juan to change and vamos. Time to really celebrate. “That’s cool,” Juan tells them, looking down. “I’m liking it here.” The square toes of Juan’s shoes are as black as outer space and look even better with the stars coming out. 64 ◯ Moonshot
The party ends, and everyone heads home. Richard tells Juan not to fuck this up. His abuela says to listen to his uncle but not too hard, to take care of his amá because she’s looking flaca. With his amá asleep, Juan locks the doors and goes to his room. He checks himself in the mirror one more time, stands straight. The phone rings, but he doesn’t answer. Juan opens a window and lies down, closes his eyes and kicks off his shoes. He wants to sleep but can’t. He hears a train passing behind his house, the slow chugging and horn pulling away until it sounds like a secret being whispered in his ear.
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Gianna Russo Voice A too-tense rope that frayed my school-night sleep, shag-carpet growl wearing down the hall of Fridays and Saturday nights, the scrape of kitchen drawers swollen in their tracks, won’t go back in, won’t go back as steak knives sawed at each other, carving knife, whetstone, then 6a.m. Mass in the first pew alone with homily, liturgy, prayer of the faithful mellowed into Sunday afternoon, table wine and macaroni, Dean Martin and the one Pall Mall you allowed yourself before fleeing into the work-week, garment-bag zipper, party-line goodnights, suppertime eggs sizzling, Mom and her bourbon, the hole where calm lived.
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Gianna Russo Thursday Night Poetry The night of the Cuban cigars, the room we ravished with poems tilted on its one good corner, that dingy corner where the smoke was legendary and the wineglasses smudged with our best lost lines. In the one livable room in that house on Platt Street, our wet shoes huddled with the shadows of our feet tucked inside. The smoke was an absinthe of the air, green fairy gifting us with the words we lived for, the new ones, quivering on the pages in our hands, each with its island of breath. After every fresh verse the night turned ravenous for talk, there in the silent country of the one livable room. We roused all our beloved poets from their slumber, and summoned them through empty doorways, spreading rumors about certain rhythms, debating the coup of each line break. We stood metaphors in front of a firing wall: some escaped with their lives; others crawled off as similes. This was every happiness we could imagine. In the word-crammed dust, the smoke was a nosegay of Old Havana. A window peeped out on the nefarious alley, and the porch pondered the drugged-out underbelly of the bridge, before the neighborhood grew tulips and strode off in its Brooks Brothers suits, before Platt Street unraveled into years leading us away from then, then, then.
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